The rains and the pains
Millions of Nigerians are caught up in the web of the endemic national power blackout. The rains soothe the scorching heat, reduce temperatures, water the earth and mop the dusty ground.
These conditions make everyone feel cool. The cool nights provide excellent condition for sound sleep. Without the usual night sweating that wets the pillows, beddings and nightwears and causes rashes, the rains provide ideal weather for relaxation. But as the rains get heavier, there are issues to watch in Nigeria’s social and economic complex.
The deplorable state of infrastructure in the country is a major source of worry whenever the rains take over. The dilapidated roads, the precariously hanging bridges that could be washed away in storm water, the inefficient and clogged drainage channels and the massive floods that wreck havoc are some of the problems that raise apprehension during the rainy season.
Owing to these, the rainy season makes life miserable for millions of people. The situation would be different if there were functional infrastructure in place.
Added to this, is the poor housing condition in which most Nigerians live. Across the states, from the villages to the urban centres, the shanties, the makeshift structures and the slums where millions live in terrible environmental condition, the situation makes the rains a curse to many. Year in, year out, people who found themselves in terrible living condition go through hell during the rainy season. Millions of people lose properties worth billions of naira to floods.
There are citizens whose living rooms and immediate surroundings are permanently waterlogged throughout the period of the rains. Such people are exposed to infections, diseases and ailments. There are others who live in places where there are no access roads to their homes.
One group that has cause to welcome the rains is the farming population. To the farmers, the rains herald the planting season and indicate a bountiful harvest after a successful planting season. Without the rains, the farmers won’t cultivate and there will be poor harvest. In Nigeria where agriculture has been relegated to the background, lack of food is a major constraint to socio-economic development. The farmers can’t afford not to have rains at its season.
Luckily, unlike in some countries where drought wrecks havoc to agricultural production, the rains have been fairly regular here. What is lacking is the policy thrust by government to revamp the agricultural sector through a systematic assistance and incentive to the real farmers. The N200 billion agric loan anchored by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 2009, could serve that purpose if the funds were advanced to the real farmers and not the ad-hoc “commercial agricultural adventurers”. There are things to watch out for during the rainy season.
First is the issue of building collapse. The rainy season is the season of building collapse. Some buildings would surely collapse and wreck havoc on occupants and their properties. This problem is more prevalent in Lagos State. However, building collapse has occurred in Port Harcourt, Abuja, Onitsha, Aba and across other cities in the country.
The Lagos State Government, for obvious reasons, should anticipate this problem because the state has recorded the highest number of building collapses in recent times. Though, hundreds of people have perished in other parts of the country, Lagos is outstanding on the issue. Many factors are responsible for this, among which is the poor structural state of the buildings. The heavy downpour and floods certainly weaken the buildings in this category, thereby creating the condition for their ultimate collapse.
The acute accommodation problem in Nigeria’s urban centres prevents occupants of dilapidated buildings from evacuating before disaster occurs. The Lagos State Government should mount a public enlightenment campaign to alert citizens on the possibility of building collapse as the rains intensify. People should be enlightened to take notice of cracks and tilts in their residential buildings and report such to the authorities. Telephone numbers should be provided for such reporting. Unfortunately, building collapse has become endemic and the best way to avert it is to be on alert like people in earthquake zone.
There may be need to evacuate people, as the case may be, like in typhoon and hurricane prone Asia and America, where citizens are constantly alerted on the approach of dangerous winds. Given the recurrence of building collapse, it would be insensitive if this disaster is ignored and continues to take everyone unawares. The authorities should be prepared for this problem and not just embark on ad-hoc measures when the disaster occurs.
There is need for governments across the federation to put emergency structures in place. Whether it is building collapse or floods after torrential downpour, the national and state emergency agencies should be on standby to move in to bring succour to the affected people. In the past few years, there have been massive floods in Kano, Kaduna, Plateau State, Abeokuta, Owerri and of course Lagos, among others. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the Red Cross, Civil Defence, among others, should be on alert. The state governments should make provision for emergency relief supplies for victims of floods, building collapses and thunderstorms. It is needless running helter-skelter in the face of a disaster. Government should anticipate these disasters this season, more so, as the climate change phenomenon takes a worrisome turn.
Second, Nigerian road travellers are exposed to untold hardship during the rainy season. This is because the country’s major highways are in tatters. The notorious Lagos-Ore-Benin highway has not been rehabilitated to some extent. Government should expedite action to complete the rehabilitation of the critical highway.
In Lagos, the aggressive road reconstruction embarked by the Fashola Administration has brought relief in some places but a lot still needs to be done in the inner city. Commuters suffer a lot during the rains. The commuter buses are inadequate. They raise fares arbitrarily. Often, large crowds of ill-prepared commuters wait at the bus stops under the rains. There is need to increase the number of the state-owned BRT buses to ease intra-city transportation.
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